How to Plan for Your Nonprofit Program Evaluation
Setting up an evaluation framework after a nonprofit project has started isn’t impossible, but it’s certainly more difficult. Under the best circumstances, you should determine what you’re going to evaluate and how you’re going to evaluate it upfront during the program design.
Many, if not most, evaluations require that data be collected during the life of the project. So if the plan is to ask clients to evaluate the services they receive, you should be ready to hand over a questionnaire to the first person who walks in the door.
Planning for evaluation also helps you to set program goals and objectives. Just ask yourself: Can it be measured? Here are some other questions to ask yourself when planning for evaluation:
For what purpose is the evaluation being done?
Who will read the evaluation?
What is the method of evaluation? Evaluations can be done in several ways. Decide which of the following methods or combinations of methods is best for your purposes:
Questionnaires and surveys
Review of project documentation
Interviews/focus groups with users of the program
Pretesting and post-testing
Some projects require an outside evaluator — someone who’s familiar with the program area, has experience as an evaluator, and isn’t associated with your organization. In other words, you’re looking for a person who has nothing at stake in the results of the evaluation.
Projects that need this in-depth analysis are usually large and complex. If a funding agency requests an outside evaluator, expect the agency to pay for the evaluation as part of the project expenses.
Internal staff members do most evaluations. Though not as expensive as outside evaluations, even internal evaluations involve costs. Project budgets should reflect the staff and materials costs that result from evaluations.